Advertising Technology

What On Earth Am I Going To Do With All Of This Data?

Scott AshbyScott Ashby is the Managing Director of MEDIA iQ, North America. Scott’s background includes 15 years in local and international media sales and management, encompassing B2B, consumer print, e-commerce, TV, and Digital Strategy. After an eight year stint at Microsoft, he joined MEDIA iQ in 2012 and is responsible for building, launching and developing their performance trading operation in the US and Canada. 

“The question is only easy if you know the answer”.

I’ll acknowledge that many of you reading this contribution to The Makegood may not have heard of Media IQ so let me endeavor to provide some context; we’re a performance trading specialist and we’re here to help clients and agencies unlock the power of data to make advertising more effective.

If, like me, you’re in the programmatic space and you attended Adweek recently, then I imagine you probably enjoyed the experience. There was a fair amount of content to participate in, some healthy debate regarding the future of the industry, the obligatory late night partying and for the first time, a genuine marquee moment. I’m referring, of course, to AOL’s Programmatic Upfront. A heady mix of velvet ropes, live music, and men wearing jeans, shirts and sport coats. Whatever you think of AOL’s provocative foray into the realms of TV Land (oxymoron? misnomer?) you can’t help but applaud the fact that they repositioned a few spotlights towards our often poorly lit corner of the industry, which is something you’ll be happy about if you’re in the business of extolling the virtues of data-driven advertising across the wider marketing landscape. It’s also beneficial that the Upfront was masterminded by Bob Lord, a well-spoken and levelheaded digital veteran who understands the combined power of data and technology for marketing purposes, whilst simultaneously being able to articulate its values in a way that your mum and dad could understand.

The defining moment of my Adweek experience did involve Bob Lord, but it had nothing to do with the Upfront. It occurred at a session entitled ‘The Future of Media Is Here: The Automation Revolution’. A headline designed to invoke feelings of aspiration whilst simultaneously promising instant gratification. The title grabbed me, the agenda looked solid, the panel seemed diverse and so I went. As the session started to wind down, the host Tim Spengler of Magna Global, asked the panel a question along the lines of

“What advice do you have for the audience?” and Bob’s response was:

“There’s a myth within the industry that data is going to make everything a lot simpler for everyone. But it isn’t, it’s going to get significantly more complicated”.

And herein lies one of the many inherent challenges we face, if we’re going to collectively move the programmatic industry out of the age of efficiency and into the age of effectiveness; things are going to get complicated! From where I sit the biggest and most complex obstacle we need to overcome in order to take a step closer towards the holy grail of highly effective advertising, is the ‘what on earth am I going to do with all this data?’ riddle. Not the collection, storage or handling of data, but the ability to interpret data and use it to create actionable strategies, which deliver against specific objectives.

So what’s the answer I hear you cry? I submit for your consideration the fabled analyst. A rare and often misunderstood bird. Cast your eye over to the vast plains of the finance sector and you’ll be able to observe it in its natural habitat. Look closely at the grasslands of a client-side marketing organization and you’ll see it foraging away in the background unheralded, workmanlike and vital to the sustainability of the eco-system. Now turn your binoculars towards the hustling, bustling rainforest that is the agency-side – you’ll notice that this particular bird is rarer still, but it is there if you look hard enough.

The thousands of you out there who actively participate in bird trapping will know that it’s one thing to identify your quarry, but it’s another thing to actually snare them. I consider myself to be fortunate to work within a company that realized back in 2010 that they needed to make significant investments in recruiting young, talented analysts who knew a little about advertising and a lot about handling and interpreting data. Fortunate because I know how difficult it is to try and persuade an Ivy-League educated analyst that advertising is a more rewarding field than Finance or Technology. I also realize that retooling the current advertising industry workforce to be more analytically competent is going to be a significant challenge, but something that ultimately has to happen in order for programmatic to reach its true value within the marketing mix. Maybe that’s what Bob meant when he said things were going to get complicated?